Author: Ken Cox
Work Injury Solutions
There were a number of very significant changes to Queensland’s workers’ compensation scheme over the last year. Below is a summary of the main changes and how they affect you.
For injuries occurring on and from 15 October 2013, the introduction of a threshold of greater than 5% Degree of Permanent Impairment (DPI) has contributed to significant reductions in premium rates for employers, around 22% on average from 1 July 2014.
Before this change, about half the common law claims against Queensland employers arose from injuries where the degree of impairment was 5% of less.
The following charts show the Average Premium Rate in Queensland since the inception of WorkCover Queensland and a guide to how Premium Rates in Queensland compare with other States.
Note in this chart the sharp rise in the Average Scheme Rate contributed to by a hike in the number of new Common Law claims during the period 2011 to 2014.
The drop to $1.20 in 2015 can be attributed to the 5% DPI threshold for the lodgement of new common law claims arising from injuries after 15 October 2013.
The chart below shows how the Queensland scheme compares with workers’ compensation arrangements in other States.
While the Queensland scheme continues to perform very well relative to other schemes, sometimes employers feel that their interests aren’t being properly protected, or worse still, that WorkCover simply got it wrong.
That’s where Signature Staff can help you – with support ranging from simple advice over the telephone to expert support in your workplace.
Some of the other important changes include a provision that employers may;
– request a prospective worker’s WorkCover Queensland claim history
– request a prospective worker’s medical history relative to the work on offer. The request must be made in writing, the employer must inform the prospective worker about the physical requirements of the role and the employer must notify the prospective worker of the consequences of not declaring a pre-existing medical condition.
If the prospective worker declines to inform the employer about a pre-existing medical condition and that medical condition is subsequently aggravated at work, the worker may not be entitled to workers’ compensation for the aggravation of that condition. It may also affect the worker’s ability to lodge a common law claim.
The process effectively affords the prospective worker an opportunity to “risk assess” themselves against the requirements of the job.
It should be pointed out that declaring a medical condition will not necessarily preclude the worker from employment. What it does do is place a heightened duty of care on the employer for that worker. A subsequent offer of employment may include a permanent restriction on the worker performing certain activities with that employer.
This allows an employer to get the best person for the job while protecting the worker and themselves from risk of injury and future loss.
Another important aspect of this change is that employers must be very careful about making employment decisions based on declared medical histories as there can be serious discrimination issues for them.
The Anti Discrimination Commission Queensland website has a very helpful Fact Sheet on this change on their website – http://www.adcq.qld.gov.au
Another significant change has been the way premium is calculated for employers with wages less than $1.5M per annum.
If this is your situation, from 1 July 2014 your premium rate will fall into one of 5 bands ranging from 80% of your Industry’s Rate to 120% of your Industry’s Rate.
This is a much fairer (and cheaper) arrangement for smaller businesses and eliminates the premium ‘spikes’ that once occurred if you experienced one very costly claim.
In the past, a single claim could impact your premium for up to five years and could double your premium for up to four years. Under the new arrangements, your premium will be based on the actual costs paid in the previous financial year only, and your premium rate will only shift up or down one band at a time.
There has been an amendment to the definition of injury for psychological injury claims. For psychological injuries occurring from 29 October 2013, employment must now be the major significant contributing factor to the injury. In the past, employment needed to only be a significant contributing factor (ie, compensation was payable if employment was just one of several significant contributing factors).
Now employment has to be the major significant contributing factor.
The method for assessing permanent impairment and calculating statutory lump sum compensation has changed from work related impairment (WRI) to degree of permanent impairment (DPI). Injuries from 15 October 2013 will be assessed using the Guide to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (GEPI) which references AMA5.
Rehabilitation & Return to Work Coordinators (RRTWC) are no longer required to complete a workplace rehabilitation course through a registered training organisation. Instead RRTWCs must be appropriately qualified. If you are a designated ‘high risk industry’ and your wages in the preceding year were greater than approx. $3.6M (2600 x QOTE), then you must have a RRTWC. If you are not in a ‘high risk industry’ you only need a RRTWC if your wages are greater than approx. $7.2M (or 5200 x QOTE).
Penalties for prosecution of fraud have increased from $44k to $55k, or 18 months to 5 years imprisonment.
Have rigorous injury prevention systems in place and continually review and monitor “reasonably foreseeable risk” in your workplaces.
Ensure that your workers are inducted, trained and re-trained in the health and safety systems for your workplace.
Keep appropriate records; if there’s no record, it didn’t happen!
Have a good system in place for reporting ALL work injuries, no matter how minor they might appear in the first instance.
Have a sound injury management system in place with a focus on “Stay at Work”. This will help your workers get better faster, with better outcomes, and reduce the impact of costly claims on your WorkCover premium.
If you have a genuine sense that something it not quite right, challenge it.
Signature Staff can provide you with timely, cost effective, expert advice about your obligation to insure, how to challenge claims that you believe may not be work related, how to manage costs arising from work injuries and how to reduce your overall workers’ compensation liability.